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Small lifestyle changes can make a BIG difference...

Poor health is a major concern for people with learning disabilities and their family carers. Being overweight or obese, over-reliance on fast foods and sugary drinks or snacks, not doing any exercise – these are all areas of concern that our clients and their families tell us about.

We are very concerned about the impact poor lifestyle choices will have on people’s emotional and physical wellbeing now and in the future. Of particular concern, is the prevalence of diabetes amongst people with learning disabilities which Diabetes UK believes to be nearly double the rate of the general population. In most cases this is Type 2 diabetes and could potentially be prevented. If not properly managed, diabetes can result in other serious health conditions such as stroke and vision problems.

Please help us to support people with learning disabilities in Nottinghamshire to reduce their risk.

With your support, our expert staff can offer fun courses to help clients find out how to make healthier choices. All activities are tailored to individual needs and have plenty of opportunity to gain new skills and knowledge with friends and local volunteers. Activities like cooking tasty meals from scratch, a trip out to buy fresh vegetables from the market, trying out a new sport with friends, or enjoying being outdoors gardening.

Just making small changes such as simple swaps or walking a bit more each day can make a BIG difference – both now and in the future. We want to run more courses at each of our centres and reach more people across the county.

But we can’t do it alone. Our resources are limited. We need our supporters to join with us to help create a healthier future for adults with learning disabilities.

How to help:

  • Make your own ‘small change’ and get sponsored for it – perhaps walking more steps every day? Or perhaps you could run a ‘healthy coffee morning’. To discuss your fundraising ideas, please contact Sarah at sarah.cobb@reachuk.org
  • We are delighted that the Lions’ District Governor has chosen to support our Small Changes, Big Difference Project for 2018/19 - If you are a Lion and would like to know more please contact Julia Sandhu on Julia.sandhu@reachuk.org or telephone 01636 819066

Tom has been working with a volunteer Mike on a project to build a new wood store at Flower Pod. The idea was for Mike to be a mentor for Tom so that he could realise more of his potential, participate more fully at Flower Pod and increase his confidence.

This has proved to be hugely successful – Tom has completely taken ownership of this project from the planning stage to completion and he is clearly proud of his achievement. Furthermore, there has been a huge change in Tom’s attitude – he always arrives on time and stays until the end of the session, he is willing to try different activities and he is now peer mentoring other Flower Pod clients how to use the tools.

Tom says: ‘working with Mike makes me happy …I love working with him, it makes me feel relaxed.’ Tom has reduced his smoking whilst at Flower Pod and says: ‘I have only had one cigarette today, being occupied, busy and enjoying what I am doing makes me forget smoking.’

Tom is now working on a plan to help build and design a new shed at home using the skills he has recently learnt on the wood shed project.

Tom (left) sharing his electric sanding skills with Kelvin (right)

Along with cutting down on smoking and working outdoors, Tom’s increased confidence and independence is clearly beneficial for his mental health and self-esteem. But what is often overlooked is how important social connections are to our health and wellbeing. Tom’s story demonstrates how providing positive activities and opportunities to engage with others has manifold benefits to health.

The Institute of Health Equity’s recent Report ‘A Fair, Supportive Society’ documents how social factors such as loneliness, social isolation, discrimination all play a role in poor health. At Flower Pod and other Reach centres people can gain the skills they need to feel more confident in participating in community life, making new social connections and reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation. This in turn benefits their health and wellbeing.

Val has been coming to Reach Mansfield for approximately 3 years. She attends for four days a week and enjoys taking part in a variety of sessions. Val has Type 2 Diabetes and took part in Reach Mansfield’s Diabetes six month pilot project in 2017.

Val can describe how she has made changes to her everyday choices to help her be healthier and to reach her own health goals. She has achieved her main goal of reducing her use of vending machines. Since she set the goal she hasn’t bought anything at all from the vending machine. She explains: “I stopped it because it has chocolate in and that is fattening so I don’t have it… I don’t have the crisps out the machine either.” The Diabetes nurse has told Val how she is very happy with her progress.

It is clear Val knows exercise plays a very important role in staying healthy and by attending Reach Dance, Fitness and Nutrition, and Swimming classes, she is improving her fitness and activity levels. Val is keen to point out that she always shares any cakes and desserts she takes home from Make and Bake!